Education review offers opportunities

By: Otago Daily Times.  

A family is sitting at the kitchen table, the children eating breakfast as their parents ruminate over a classified advertisement published in the morning’s Otago Daily Times.

The notice calls for nominations for election to the local school’s board of trustees. Also on the table, the latest school newsletter urges parents to have a crack at school governance.

«I’d love to have more to do with the kids’ education,» Mum says as she sips her breakfast tea. «Imagine it, not just helping with homework, but having a lasting impact on their education.»

Dad pushes the newspaper back toward Mum. «Nah, forget about it. It’s not really about education – you need to know about building and construction and contracts. It’s not like it used to be.»

The newsletter makes its way to the recycling bin. A few weeks later, a new edition lists the candidates. There are just enough to fill the positions. Mum’s name is not there.

The Tomorrow’s Schools education reforms were supposed to give parents a bigger say in the processes that shaped the way their child’s school worked and grew.

Parent-led boards employed teachers and principals; they were responsible for school property and maintenance; they consulted on school zoning and they tackled disputes.

Justifiably, they saw their work as having a bearing on how their schools performed as institutions, and on their «unique» character.

The extent to which this was true varied between schools and communities. Some managed their workload while others struggled – and their schools with them. About 2500 boards were, individually, doing their own thing.

In some cities, they enabled environments in which schools competed for students and achievement. Naturally, they wanted the best for their schools, and for their schools to be the best.

It meant there were winners – schools that became known for scholastic and sporting achievement – and those that, no matter the intervention, were always playing catch-up.

Successive governments acknowledged the divide by providing guidance for and, in the most trying circumstances, directly managing struggling boards.

The decile system, in which socio-economic factors help determine funding, was supposed to help resource schools to a point where they could «compete» with others.

But time and again, boards – parents – were consumed by matters that had little to do with what was happening, or could influence what happened, in the classroom.

School property provision and maintenance tested boards as school rolls grew. The Ministry of Education paid for the work, but the boards were always intimately, time-consumingly, involved.

The workload was significantly astray of what many parents were equipped for. A reset has been needed for many years and that it came with the Tomorrow’s Schools Review Taskforce report is welcome.

Among the responses outlined by Education Minister Chris Hipkins was that most school property management should be simplified or transferred to his ministry.

That would allow for economies of scale and group procurement but would come, so Mr Hipkins says, with the expectation communities continued to have a say on how their schools grow.

There may be some unease as to what this may mean for local people contracted by local boards, but Mr Hipkins says his ministry must consult and collaborate as the shift happens.

A new Education Support Agency would provide guidance for managers and governors while assuming responsibility for reviewing and approving enrolment schemes.

The impact of this will be keenly considered by boards in our larger centres, particularly where they have «taken care» to ensure the boundaries reflect their «community of interest».

Compulsory training for board members will also be considered. Given the budgets and responsibilities boards have, that it has not been compulsory before now remains remarkable.

News of the recommendations has been met with optimism from some but the challenge remains for the ministry to ensure the changes are implemented better than other major reforms have been before them.

The ministry must move from enforcer to collaborator, just as schools will be further encouraged to work together. The best result will be that educational environments and outcomes are enhanced. And, perhaps, fewer election notices will be consigned to the rubbish bin.

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New Zealand: Education Minister Chris Hipkins refuses ‘crisis’ meeting with ECE groups

Oceania/ New Zealand/ 09.07.2019/ Source:

Four groups representing early childhood centres and kindergartens are seeking an urgent meeting with Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

The Early Childhood Council, Te Rito Maioha, New Zealand Kindergartens and Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand said services were struggling to survive because of chronic underfunding and a shortage of qualified teachers.

The chief executive of the Early Childhood Council, Peter Reynolds, said early childhood centres were in a financial crisis and the 1.8 percent increase to subsidies included in the most recent government Budget was nowhere near enough.

«We’ve had over a decade of cuts, 1.8 percent just really doesn’t do it though we’re grateful for anything we can get, but you’ve got services going to the wall,» Mr Reynolds said.

«I’ve got centres where the owner-operator of the business hasn’t taken any drawings out of their business for the last several years at least. I’ve got centres where one person’s telling me as the centre manager that she’s earning less than the maintenance person.»

Mr Reynolds said his organisation and three others, Te Rito Maioha, New Zealand Kindergartens and the Montessori Association had asked the Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, for an urgent meeting without Ministry of Education staff present.

«We want to talk to the minister directly, we want to have an off-the-record conversation and we want to get a very clear idea about what the minister has proposed to do and by when.»

Mr Reynolds said early childhood services needed to see a light at the end of the tunnel and it needed to be realistic.

Services could not simply make more money by increasing their fees because many parents could not afford to pay more for early childhood education, he said.

Mr Reynolds said the minister had turned down the request for a meeting and asked for further information, which was highly disappointing.

Mr Hipkins said he had asked for a detailed breakdown of key issues «as a means of facilitating further talks».

He said the government had increased early childhood subsidies by 1.6 percent this year and 1.8 percent next year, which was significantly more than the sector had received since 2009.

Mr Hipkins said the ministry did not hold figures on the early learning workforce but there was «a clear tightening of teacher supply».

But the chief executive of Te Rito Maioha, which represents several hundred services, Kathy Wolfe, said government had not done enough to deliver on pre-election promises such as raising the minimum number of teachers required to work with children under the age of two, and re-introducing a higher rate of funding for services where all teachers were qualified, registered teachers.

Ms Wolfe said early childhood services felt the government had put them in a holding pattern and many were struggling while they waited for things to improve.

«We have had members closing their centres over the last few years due to the financial crisis,» she said.

Ms Wolfe said many centres had used their financial reserves and the government needed to significantly improve subsidies for the sector.

«Just to meet the shortfall of funding from the last seven years we need the government to inject 7 percent into the sector just to catch up, that’s about $130 million.»

The owner of six early childhood centres, Maria Johnson, said the entire sector was struggling and one of the biggest problems was a shortage of qualified teachers.

«We are really struggling at the moment with a number of things, particularly the massive, massive shortage of teachers in the sector, not just the qualified teachers but teachers with a real understanding of our early childhood curriculum,» she said.

«Our staff just aren’t paid what they should be getting paid.»

Ms Johnson said the sector was badly under-funded and some centres had been forced to close while her own centres had increased their fees.

The government needed to increase subsidies in a way that ensured the money went to teachers’ pay and to improving the quality of education, she said.

Many people in early childhood had hoped a Labour-led government would make significant changes but that had not happened yet, she said.

Education Ministry figures showed 83 early childhood services closed last year and 82 closed in 2017, an increase in the roughly 50 a year that closed in most of the preceding years.

Meanwhile, the number of new services last year reached its lowest point since 2007 at 146.

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Victoria to ban mobile phones in all state primary and secondary schools

Oceania/ Australia/ 08.07.2019/ Source:


Education minister James Merlino announces move aimed at reducing classroom distraction and cyberbullying

Students at Victorian public schools will be banned from using their phones from next year.

In an effort to reduce distractions and cyber bullying, and hopefully improve education outcomes, students will have to switch off their phones and store them in lockers during school hours until the final bell, the education minister, James Merlino, has announced.

In case of an emergency, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school.

The only exceptions to the ban will be where students use phones to monitor health conditions, or where teachers instruct students to bring their phone for a particular classroom activity.

“This will remove a major distraction from our classrooms, so that teachers can teach, and students can learn in a more focused, positive and supported environment,” Merlino said.

“Half of all young people have experienced cyberbullying. By banning mobiles we can stop it at the school gate.”

The ban will start from term one in 2020.

Some Victorian schools had already banned mobile phones, but the new laws impose a statewide ban for the first time.

McKinnon Secondary College, a high performing public school in Melbourne’s south-east, was among those that banned phones from its grounds.

The principal, Pitsa Binnion, said the school had “observed improved social connections, relationships and interactions” at lunchtime and that students were “more focused”.

It also comes amid a push from the federal education minister, Dan Tehan, for states to adopt the move.

The Victorian policy goes further than the ban imposed in NSW at the end of last year, which was was limited to all state primary schools.

Teachers unions in New South Wales expressed scepticism at the ban, which they said would be ineffective and would limit the ability of students to learn how use their phones safely and responsibly. The Catholic education office had also opposed the ban when it was floated in NSW.

But principals have also acknowledged that managing smartphones had been a big challenge for schools.

The child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg welcomed the Victorian policy. “All schools have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment in which to learn,” he said.

“This significant policy initiative is designed to ensure the wellbeing of young people while at school, free of distraction and potentially cyberbullying.”

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, had dismissed a ban when asked about McKinnon Secondary College’s new policy last year.

“This is school-by-school issue and they have made their choice,’’ he said at the time.

“Individual schools will make these choices. On a matter like this, and indeed many other matters, it is not for us to be directing schools.”

Victoria’s Liberal opposition had first proposed a phone ban in February last year.

The opposition’s education spokesman, Tim Smith, suggested Labor was “endorsing” the Liberals policy.

“Let’s see what the [Australian Education Union] says,” he said in a tweet.

The party’s former leader, Matthew Guy, said in a tweet on Tuesday night that “policy imitation is the greatest form of flattery”.

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Australia: Education University funding could be tied to maths and science teaching push


The federal government could use funding agreements with Australian universities to force them to make science and maths a priority in teaching degrees.

In a speech delivered in Sydney on Monday, education minister Simon Birmingham signalled that the government was willing to use university funding as a way of addressing falling participation rates in high school maths and science.

The government says that in 2013 one in five year 7 to 10 general science teachers had not completed a year of university study in that area, a figure Birmingham said was “unacceptable”.

On Monday he said states and territories should “be willing to make clear to universities where their employment priorities lie” and create incentives for more students to consider specialising in maths and science subjects.

“Between better workforce planning and smarter use of technology every high school should have access to specialist teachers to teach specialist science and maths subjects,” he said.

“And we should strive to achieve this within the next five to ten years.”

While Birmingham conceded the federal government cannot force states to hire teachers with maths or science backgrounds, he indicated he could “influence” the teaching students entering university by tying it to university enrolment funding.

“If need be, federal funding powers over university places could be used to help the states to influence enrolments to secure the science teachers we need for the future,” he said.

It comes after a report from Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel which noted a long-term decline in year 12 students enrolling in science and challenging maths subjects.

The report, released in April, found the number of students choosing science had dropped from 55% in 2002 to 51% in 2013. And while maths participation had remained steady, Finkel’s report found a trend towards students choosing easier subjects.

The Finkel report argued that not enough universities required mathematics subjects for degrees – saying it is only a prerequisite for five of 37 universities offering a bachelor of science, four of 31 for a bachelor of commerce and one of 34 for an engineering degree.

He also called for a complete overhaul of the Advanced Tertiary Admission Rank system, or Atar, saying it encouraged students to game the system by aiming for higher scores by doing less demanding subjects.


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Israel: Ultra-Orthodox Families’ Increasing Demand for Secular Education Not Being Met

Asia/Israel/05.06.2018/By: Or Kashti/ Source:

Education Ministry ‘foiling attempts at integration into society,’ say parents who want state-run Haredi school system to incorporate subjects like English, math

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox children whose families want them to receive education in secular subjects are likely to be left in the lurch in the coming school year.

Despite growing demand among the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, to have children learn «core» subjects as English and math as part of the curriculum in the state Haredi school system – no solution has been forthcoming. The reasons for this, parents claim, include lack of room, hurdles by the local authorities and indifference on the part of the Education Ministry.

In light of this situation, an attempt by parents of some 250 children to be accepted to state Haredi schools next year is doomed to fail. A group of parents has gotten together recently, demanding an increase in the number of classrooms in these schools, but it seems that most will end up registering their children in the regular Haredi school system, where secular subjects are taught at a low level, if at all.

The parents accuse the Education Ministry of shirking its responsibilities. One has even charged that “the state is foiling attempts by Haredi families to integrate into the general society.”

The state Haredi school system was launched at the initiative of former Education Minister Shai Piron, who sought to bypass the contentious issue of core subjects being taught in the non-state schools that cater to the community. In addition to religious subjects, the relatively new state-run system offers a full curriculum of secular subjects from the first grade, and it is supervised by the ministry, in contrast to the Haredi system that is independently managed and has its own curriculum.

According to Education Ministry figures, the number of children enrolled this academic year in 43 state-run Haredi schools is 5,562, as compared to 4,675 pupils in 36 institutions last year. The ministry would not divulge data regarding the coming school year.

In conversations with parents and Haredi education activists it emerges that some 150 children who will be entering first grade in Jerusalem in the fall have been told that the schools are completely full. In Petah Tikva and Bnei Brak, 70 children are looking for a place in Haredi state schools, while others seek to enroll in them in Bat Yam, Holon and other cities – including locales with a Haredi majority such as Modi’in and Betar Ilit.

According to senior Education Ministry officials, these are numbers that warrant urgent attention.

A preliminary survey by Itamar Kea Levi, an activist in Jerusalem, reveals that there are 120 families across the country that have shown interest in setting up a school as part of the state-Haredi system in their own locales. He says that dozens of other families did not wish to give details about their efforts, as yet.

“The world is changing, people realize that you can stay in the world of Torah and work at the same time,” says Kea Levi. “In such a world, you want your child to have all the options.”

There are currently three such schools in Jerusalem – an elementary school for girls, and an elementary and high school for boys. Next year, a high school for girls is scheduled to be opened.

‘A different approach’

Former Bnei Brak resident Neta Katz says that he moved to Jerusalem so that his two sons, aged 7 and 9, will be able to study at a state Haredi school. “We’re at the end of the first year and I thank God for the move,” he says, adding that his daughter will be entering first grade in the fall of 2019.

“I asked the principal of the girls’ school to keep a place for her,» he says, «but she told me not to count on it. If it’s hard to deal with the demand at this point, I have no doubt that things will only get worse.”

Katz himself studied in schools run by the strict Gur Hasidic sect, and he recalls that, “95 percent of the time was devoted to religious studies, with an hour or an hour and a half left over for secular subjects. English was taught on an irregular basis. When I reached the academic world I had great difficulties since I had to start from very basic concepts like simple arithmetic problems.”

In the state Haredi schools, Katz explains, “the approach is completely different, both in terms of the level and the scope. I never knew there was a subject called science. I don’t believe core subjects should be imposed on people who don’t want them, but the state must enable this for those who do. In many high-density Haredi communities there are no such schools. If one considers the interest of the state, this is an unacceptable situation.”

Israel’s compulsory education law gives the responsibility for education to the state and to local authorities. Often, this joint responsibility leads one of the sides to pass the buck. According to sources in some local governments, the procedure is usually that the municipal education department turns to the ministry to ask for a new school to be built. The ministry has various methods of supporting the school system in local authority, through enhanced general budgets or by covering some specific expenses.

The Haredi department at the Education Ministry is responsible for state Haredi schools as well as for the independent Haredi system. Katz says that when he met in the past with people in this department, he was advised to organize a group of parents and then approach the local authority.

“The problem is that you can’t wait for the free market to kick in,” says Katz. “There are many hurdles and objections and you can’t tell parents to deal with local governments on their own.”

Says Yehuda Grovais, from Bnei Brak, “The Haredi department promised to deal with establishing a school if we produced a list of interested parents. By word of mouth we managed to get a list of 40 girls who want to attend such a school next year. So we were sent to the municipality. The sense is that the Education Ministry prefers that someone else do the fighting for them.”

Grovais notes that city hall had suggested that the girls go to a regular Haredi school. When he insisted he wanted something different, he was told that, “it won’t work here.” The same thing happened to another group in Petah Tikva.

“[Education Minister] Bennett is abandoning ultra-Orthodox people who want to integrate” says one parent. “The ministry is strengthening the grip of the extremist elements of the Haredi community and we’re paying the price.”

In response, the Bnei Brak municipality says that efforts will be made to resolve the issue. The Petah Tikva municipality said there was not enough demand for such schools.

The Education Ministry said it viewed the demand for more state-run Haredi schools positively and would examine ways to meet it, together with the relevant local authorities.

Source of the news:–1.6141203

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Malawi: Education Minister Msaka says Mbayani to have three new primary schools

Malawi/March 3, 2013 2018/By:  Green Muheya/Nyasatimes

Minister of Education Science and Technology, Bright Msaka, has said three more primary schools will be constructed in populous Mbayani township in Blantyre to decongest Mbayani One Primary School.

Speaking after touring Mbayani One Primary School which has 10,00 learners and 74 teachers representing a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:126 against the recommended ratio of 1:60,  Msaka said it was appalling to note  the congestion.

Msaka said the large number of learners is a draw back to the promotion of quality education in the country as teachers are overwhelmed and pupils’ monitoring and assessment becomes a challenge.

“In the case of Mbayani Township, the ministry plans to construct three additional primary schools that will be within the same locality. This will mean that the schools will be accessible to school-going children and that pupils will be learning in conducive environment.

“All these efforts are done so as to achieve optimum number of teacher to learner ratio which is 1:70 so that teachers will be able to give adequate attention to learners, hence improving quality of education in Malawi,” Msaka added.

Msaka said his ministry already set to start constructing three other primary schools at Likhubula and at Chapima Heights in the area.

The minister also disclosed that the ministry would also recruit additional 6000 teachers to help achieve optimal teacher to pupil ratio.

In his remarks, Head teacher of Mbayani Primary School, Joe Magombo said the school continued to face challenges ranging from inadequate classroom blocks to teachers, a development which affects teaching and learning activities at the school.


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Liberia: Senate Rejects Education Minister

Liberian/September 04, 2017/Allafrica

Resumen: Los miembros del Senado de Liberia el  jueves 31 de agosto  declararon abrumadoramente el voto de no confianza en el Ministro de Educación, George Werner.

Minister George Werner who had been summoned over a post he wrote on Facebook questioning the essence of participating in presidential debates refused to apologize to the lawmakers.

Members of the Liberian Senate overwhelmingly declare vote of no confidence Thursday, 31 August in the Minister of Education, George Werner. Minister Werner had earlier posted on his Facebook page weeks back, «Da book we will eat?» Werner continued: «To the book people, education does not promote equality and share prosperity.» The Minister then goes on to categorize the debate as «Tabata,» (in the Kru dialect means nonsense).

The post did not go down well with Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif, a strong supporter of the governing Unity Party Standard Bearer, Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai.

Senator Dor-Sherif subsequently wrote plenary of the Liberian Senate, complaining that the post speaks to the fact that the education boss does not care about educating Liberian kids, and that his post has a propensity to divert the minds of school-going kids from furthering their studies.

She further argues that the minister’s comments are demeaning and offensive to the education sector of the country. Based her argument, plenary summoned Minister Werner to give reason why he should not be held in contempt.

It may be recalled that on August 17, Deepening Democracy Coalition, an independent pro-democracy group organized a debate among the six top presidential candidates in the upcoming elections, to showcase their platforms to the Liberian people.

Four out of the six candidates participated in the presidential debate and the absence of Coalition for Democratic Change Standard Bearer, Senator George and Standard Bearer of the Movement for Economic Empowerment created serious public outcry.
Werner, who appeared before the Liberian Senate on Thursday as mandated by the body to show reasons why he should not be held in contempt for undermining the educational sector, argues that his comments on social media were not offensive and did not, undermine the nation’s educational sector.

Minister Werner reneges in giving an open apology to the senators, saying «I have listened to your advice and I will contemplate on it.» In another response to the Senate, the Minister reluctantly said, «I take your advice into consideration and I thank you for it.»

Following his comments, the body then voted to pass a «Vote of no confidence» in him on grounds that he has failed to proffer a direct apology for his acts. Meanwhile, Lofa County Senator, George Tengbeh, files a motion for reconsideration against the decision of the Senate, but has been advised by the body to do so within the statutory period.

Under the standing rules of the Liberian Legislature, there is nothing calls vote of no confidence, which is borrowed from the British parliament. Statutorily, it is constitutional power of the President to accept the vote of no confidence or continue working with Minister Werner.

During the Interim government headed by Dr. Amos Sawyer in the 1990s, members of the House of Representatives declared vote of confidence in then Finance Minister, Dr. Byron Tarr, but Dr. Sawyer retained him as finance boss until the elapse of the interim arrangement.


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